Our clients are always surprised that there are so many people that live with the fear of needing the toilet, also known as toilet anxiety. This particular fear is often mistakenly identified and interpreted as anxiety about pooping (parcopresis) or bowel and bladder anxiety (incontinence anxiety). While there may be some overlap, they are very different and more importantly, need to be treated in a different way.
In this article, we aim to give you a deeper understanding of toilet anxiety, helping you determine if you or someone you know may be experiencing this condition and how to resolve this debilitating fear.
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What causes toilet anxiety?
Toilet anxiety refers to the fear of needing the toilet but more specifically, the fear is that you won’t be able to reach the toilet in time. Interestingly, you may have noticed that this anxiety doesn’t occur when you are at home. Your toilet anxiety doesn’t occur at home unless there’s a perceived problem such as having only one bathroom and someone else is using it.
This type of debilitating fear can be experienced by anyone regardless of age. Although it often takes root during childhood, it can also emerge as an adult through experiences that caused you to become anxious about needing the toilet or be learned from parents, siblings, peers or even partners by witnessing their fears or hearing stories about mishaps that create a sense of vulnerability, making us more susceptible to developing our own toilet anxieties.
Often it is driven by the dread of having an embarrassing accident in public. These thoughts, which tend to be dismissed as silly by most people, can grow into deep-seated fears, instilling a constant sense of danger and potential humiliation in those with toilet anxiety.
Childhood experiences, such as soiling oneself in public or strict parental routines around toilet usage, can lay the foundation for toilet anxiety. These early incidents shape our beliefs, feelings, perceptions and most importantly our predictions, setting the stage for future anxieties.
However, toilet anxiety is not exclusive to childhood. It can emerge later in life due to traumatic incidents or embarrassing accidents experienced as adults. A single event can sow the seeds of anxiety, gradually reinforcing the belief that similar situations will lead to humiliation and distress.
Do I have toilet anxiety?
Although toilet anxiety affects individuals in various ways, one thing is for sure the fear of needing the toilet shares common traits that can help you identify its presence. There are some specific triggers and behaviours associated with toilet anxiety. If you’re experiencing toilet anxiety you will probably recognise one or more of the triggers. Here are some of the key triggers that can help you determine if you have a fear of needing the toilet aka toilet anxiety:
Recognizing Specific Triggers
Probably the number one trigger for toilet anxiety is the belief that access to the toilet will be difficult or problematic for some reason. These triggers tend to be specific, such as toilet anxiety when travelling. For instance, it could manifest in travel-related situations, such as long journeys, road trips even local journeys where there may be traffic jams, trains, tubes or flights. The uncertainty of restroom availability, restricted access during transportation, or being unable to find suitable facilities in unfamiliar locations can contribute to anxiety.
Frequent Toilet Usage
People with toilet anxiety often find themselves making frequent visits to the restroom before leaving their homes or engaging in activities. Some may limit their food and fluid intake before going out. They do this to reduce the likelihood of needing to use a restroom in unfamiliar or challenging environments.
Toilet anxiety can significantly impact social interactions and daily activities. Most people with toilet anxiety find it much easier if they are on their own. They feel more in control and able to stop and use the toilet without having to make excuses. However, some people need the reassurance of having someone with them that understands that they have the problem and will support, them such as their partner or their mum.
Those affected may avoid social outings to places like shops or restaurants, even if they are aware that toilets are available. The fear of limited access to toilets amplifies their anxiety and restricts their participation in various social settings.
Heightened Anxiety in Single-Toilet Situations
The anxiety surrounding toilet anxiety can reach its peak when there is only one restroom accessible. As an example, if they are in a restaurant or cafe with only one toilet, the moment someone uses the toilet their anxiety will rise. If you find yourself watching who goes into the toilet and when they come out, you almost certainly are suffering from toilet anxiety.
Another example would be a large-scale event or festival. These often have limited toilet facilities, resulting in long queues or crowded restrooms. If you are suffering from toilet anxiety you may find these situations overwhelming and simply choose to not go at all avoiding the event altogether because of your fear of needing the toilet.
To establish if you are experiencing toilet anxiety, it is important to consider the shared characteristics and behaviours associated with this condition.
Ask yourself: “Am I experiencing any or all of these?
Now, if your answer is yes, then it is probable that you may be dealing with toilet anxiety.
How do you fight toilet anxiety?
Many individuals find themselves caught in the grip of the fear of needing the toilet, spending countless hours searching for a solution or trying to cope with it on their own. We understand the struggle, and our clients can attest to the frustration they’ve experienced in their quest to resolve their toilet anxiety. They’ve tried various therapies, hoping to find relief, only to discover that their fears still linger.
But don’t lose hope just yet. Understanding the roots of your anxiety and identifying the triggers that set it off are essential steps on this journey. And that’s where hypnotherapy can be a game-changer but it has to be very specific for this problem. Many hypnotherapists simply approach this problem the way they do for other anxieties and in my experience they hardly ever reach a permanent change. Don’t get me wrong they are always working towards your best outcome but unless you understand fully how this problem needs to be treated resolution is at best unlikely at worst it can in fact be heightened. You cannot just relax yourself out of this problem.
Done right, hypnotherapy for toilet anxiety offers a powerful and effective solution for conquering this type of fear.
Working with a skilled hypnotherapist that has experience treating toilet anxiety the right way, will not just give you insights into the thoughts, emotions, and experiences that contribute to your anxiety. An expert in this field will guide you to make the psychological changes needed to return to normal and natural thoughts around using the toilet. You will know because you’ll return to being spontaneous, and confident to tackle every opportunity that life throws your way.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to face this battle alone – at The Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy, we’re here to support you on your path to lasting change. Contact us today!